Dear Exhausted, Overwhelmed, Loved-up, emotion drunk Mom of a Newborn.
This is your much deserved Love Letter (and message of Hope for the here and now.)
You are living a very real life-altering existence right now and Im sure you don't recognize parts of yourself. Your body, emotions and mind have been altered and you're feeling an all encompassing mixture of 'Completely Lip-Puckering, tear-jerking, mountain moving LOVE, and 'OMF this baby is my everything, what if I kill him? What if he cries? What do I do next' anxiety. Right?!? It's a mixture of emotions that NO-ONE could ever successfully describe, you have to feel it to get it. But- YOU GET IT now :)
If you're reading this then I hope you found it in time- before the anxiety gets too overwhelming, before the concerns for your future mental state sets in, before you begin fixating on your lack of sleep and before you begin finding all sorts of reasons why you 'cant' breastfeed. I hope you've found this letter before you've stopped your attempts to breastfeed and before someone convinced you that it was OK to give it up and use formula.
I hope like hell I'm in time!
Here's why- when it comes to breastfeeding Dear Mama - its hard. It's always hard. Sure, the type of difficulties we face may differ, and the degrees of difficulty aren't always alike, and the details change. But, the common characteristic of HARD- is the same for us all. So first thing then- let's all just crush the notion right now that breastfeeding comes so naturally to women (and once we've agreed across the board that it doesn't- we can now put away the idea that anyone who isn't finding it 'so natural' is failing, unnatural, not meant to do it, etc etc.) Breastfeeding is hard. It's a completely new skill and one that has nothing else that comes close to it- and so we approach this particular challenge without any prior training up or pre-skills (like riding a bike without any time spent walking, running, sitting or balancing!)
The challenges that breastfeeding can pose are numerous and emotion filled but the end result and the goals remain the same- this is Important. Breastfeeding is important. It's so damn important. In a world facing a growing health crisis; with inflammation, obesity and disease rates sky high as well as the ever-mutating and powerful viruses that hit our communities each year- breastfeeding is your number 1 defense for your child against all manner of infections and ill health; as well as the most phenomenal bonding and psycho-social tool too. Breastfeeding protects your baby, his body, his health, his gut, his brain, his future- and yours. So- yes: it's important enough and worth it enough for all the struggles you're experiencing, the tears you've cried and the sleep you've lost.
This I can Promise you: You will never regret a single breastfeed but you will regret the day you quit.
So Mama- when do you need to get breastfeeding help? That answer is easy- the second you think you might like it.
AKA- about 2 seconds after baby is born ;) wink wink - or 2 hours after birth, or maybe 2 days, or 2 weeks or 2months- but the point is; professional breast-feeding specialists know all the ins and outs and can set you up so easily for a better breastfeeding journey, a much nicer one then the one you may head yourself on 4 weeks in and still finding everything so damn bad!
So if there's anything you want to check, ask, fix or know- get calling/emailing- make your appointment with a breastfeeding professional and get yourself going- the difference a really great lactation specialist makes is AMAZING.
Before we decided to be so fantastically modern and tech-savvy and before humans decided that sky-rise apartments were better than villages- we had tribes of women gathering together to nurture their young and nourish their babies, and the art of breastfeeding was passed on naturally to new mothers who had spent their entire lives beforehand in the company of breastfeeding and wet-nursing women.
Today- we don't have our tribes; so instead- we have women who chose to follow careers teaching breastfeeding and sharing their knowledge, experience and support.
Us Breastfeeding specialists are modern day tribal members- and we can help.
Next - your mind!
So new Mama; as for your mind- I want you to stay calm and read on.
I want you to acknowledge for a moment that you are experiencing something entirely new and at times; overwhelming. Equal parts wonderful and terrifying. And so- new and unusual situations call for some new and unusual behavior- behavior like; wearing pajamas all day, taking baths at 2pm, eating cookies for dinner and not washing your hair (or face) for a week. This is all perfectly Ok, nay- perfect! There's nothing that needs doing right now that can't be gotten too at some other time and there's nothing that you can do right now that's going to so massively undermine your life and all you've done up until this point. Right now you are undergoing a big change- you're evolving. And, although the person you are right now may not be able to do all the things that you could do before- remember this; the person you were before you had your baby (productive, busy, active, focussed....free) couldn't take care of a baby the way you are right now. So- it's good to let go of those thoughts for now- the 'when will I be able to leave him and go get stuff done!' thoughts the 'when will I not have to have my boob out every hour' thoughts- because I promise you, all those times will come, and they will happen, and you will feel more familiar once again- but for now: those thoughts are not going to help you- they're going to hinder you from seeing this situation for what it really is: a wonderful real time evolution. An evolution into motherhood- more love, more empathy, patience, understanding and resolve. Dive in Mama- get messy: then- you'll really get to love it!
The real gift of throwing yourself into this uncontrollable new existence whole heartedly and without restraint, is that you soon learn how much you're capable of. That you're actually unbreakable. That you bend, you twist, you can take the hits, the ups and the downs- and that you can evolve. Change, compromise and get up- you can keep going. Lose parts of yourself but still be- yourself.
And that's what getting stuck in and taking new things on does to your mind- shows you how strong and bendable you are.
I've always thought of breastfeeding as the perfect first step into motherhood in the first weeks. It's difficult, challenging, emotional, exhausting and full of self doubt and questioning- but its important, and the best thing for your baby- so you persevere, for her.
And that's really what parenting is about- you take on all of it again and again, and you persevere through the challenges because you're constantly trying to make everything better for them, your kids.
I hope this helps. I hope your mind feels rested and you've removed some of the guilt, the worry and the fear- I hope you've found the strength to reach out for some help and the peace of mind to know why you should. I hope you feel heard, understood and acknowledged and I hope you believe yourself capable of wonderful growth and change. These are unusual times- it's time to be nicer to yourself and acknowledge your strength.
Have a cup of tea, let baby sleep on your chest and put on a cheesy romcom- everything else will keep.